Hold That Pause
Hold That Pause

Is Novo Nordisk Pushing the Vaginal Atrophy Narrative?

A doctor holding a blank tablet. Vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness are both serious, and not oft discussed issues for menopausal women. I’ll include myself in that demographic. They are part of the reason women lose interest in sex once they reach menopause. Because, let’s face it. Sex is not exactly something you look forward to if it hurts. 

Seems simple enough.

I’m also all about discussing perimenopause and menopause symptoms, especially those symptoms which are not easy to discuss. Vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness certainly fall under that heading. But, I’ve noticed lately (like over the last 12 months), that vaginal atrophy is front and center in the conversations among health care providers, health bloggers, and now, women’s health magazines.

Were it not for the fact that I attended a round table discussion on the topic of vaginal atrophy exactly one year ago this month (you can read the post I wrote about it right here), sponsored by the drug company Novo Nordisk, I probably wouldn’t have given this much thought. Except maybe to say, “Good. We need to be talking about it.”

And we do. 

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m also kind of bugged by it too, and here’s why: When I left the round table discussion last year I felt peculiar, and a little exploited. While I certainly enjoyed the fine company of my fellow women health bloggers, and the representatives of Novo Nordisk were certainly gracious hosts as well, I had a nagging feeling I was being “bought” to align myself with the Novo Nordisk narrative on what vaginal atrophy is, and how it should be treated.

Namely, with their drugs.

Now some of you might wonder why in the world this bugs me so much. After all, most of us know that drug companies fund voluminous amounts of medical research with the specific intention to push healthcare agendas, and influence physicians and healthcare providers to buy their drugs. And that doesn’t include the multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns which we, the healthcare consumer, are deluged with on a daily basis.

So, this is not a revelation, I know. But it still bothers me.

I’m sure some of my health blogging colleagues (and you know who you are) wish that I would just shut up about all of this and get in line. But if you’re going to call yourself a women’s healthcare advocate, isn’t that what you should be doing? Advocating for women?

How is parroting a narrative about menopause symptoms, which is clearly being driven and funded by a drug company, for the express purpose of selling drugs which they manufacture, advocating for women’s health? 

I’m sorry, but I don’t think it is, and I refuse to do it.

So here I go again with my fence rattling - I’m sorry about that too. I really don’t get up every day to look for ways to be contrary or difficult. And believe it or not, I don’t enjoy this at all. It’s just that I see an enormous problem, and I don’t have the first clue what to do about it.

When women ask you on a daily basis for help with their perimenopause symptoms because they are not getting the kind of healthcare they so desperately want, it feels enormously hypocritical of me to jump on the latest drug company bandwagon to offer them more of what they don’t want.

And if my knickers aren’t in a big enough wad over this, the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) has kindly extended a complementary reservation to me to attend their annual meeting in Dallas, Texas next month, where one of the main topics is going to be – you guessed it – vaginal atrophy.

I’m thinking I won’t be attending.

Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women's health and a women's freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.

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Tags: Life After Menopause

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About the Author

Magnolia is dedicated to empowering women to take responsibility for their own health.